I think one area of campus where I see a lot of waste and not a lot of sustainability is the bookstore. On campus, the bookstore gives away a massive quantity of plastic bags, which are often discarded quickly after use. This practice is extremely not sustainable, and contributes to a lot of pollution. As we have seen in math of sustainability, using an excess of plastic is incredibly harmful to our environment–this includes our oceans, our groundwater, our wildlife, as well as many other aspects of life. Another issue with this practice is that there doesn’t seem to be a good way to recycle these plastic bags on campus; I often see them being placed in trash bins. As a green proposal, I think that Union would be wise in starting an initiative to give students reusable bags, and to encourage students to use these by charging a small fee for the plastic bags, similar to how some grocery stores do.
Clearly, plastic contributes to a large portion of the humans waste that pollutes the environment. Although we are told to reduce, reuse, and recycle, much of our plastic is disposed of improperly and ends up in places where it has the potential to cause great harm, such as the ocean.
The graph I chose details the portion of plastic trash that is disposed of improperly as well as the portion of that plastic that ends up in the ocean. In 201o, 275 million tonnes of plastic trash was produced. Of this 275 million tonnes of total plastic waste, 31.9 million tonnes were disposed of improperly and, therefore, 243.1 million tonnes were disposed of properly. Although at face value it seems like this means we’re doing pretty well with recycling, when I calculated the percentage I discovered that this means 11.6% was disposed of improperly and 88.4% was disposed of properly. This means more than 1 in 10 articles of plastic waste were not recycled, which gives these stats perspective and shows that we are really slacking on recycling. Additionally, of the 31.9 million tonnes of improperly disposed plastic waste, 8.75 million tonnes ended up in the ocean, which is 27.4% of the improperly disposed of plastic and 3.2 percent of all plastic waste.
By further interpreting graphs such as this one, it is possible to gain a more comprehensive perspective on the real meaning behind the numbers and what they really mean.
Growing up living on a beach has exposed me to the detrimental effects that humans can have on the environment. Vacationers aren’t able to see the damage their carelessness can cause over time. Beach cleanups do assist with some of the pollution taking place on public beaches, but plastics still continue to get left buried in the sand. A study by Carolyn Barry found that these plastics can degrade somewhat rapidly, thus filling the ocean with chemical pollution. Just by chasing after that trash that blew away or picking up an empty water bottle while taking a stroll down the beach can make a huge impact. Every summer I partake in four huge community beach clean ups and the amount of trash collected each time is unsettling.
Through community service projects both on campus as well as at home, I aim to help reduce the community’s carbon footprint. I hope that through this class I can learn more about the other ways I can impact the environment. I also want to learn more about the global sustainability statistics and how carbon footprints can be measured.